Rejected After Interviews: Assessing What Went Wrong

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Session 176

This week’s question is about rejection after interviews. What could have gone wrong?

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[00:47] OldPreMeds Question of the Week

“I have been honored to have been offered 2 interviews: the first to a school to which I applied early decision, the second last week (obviously late in the cycle.) The outcome: I was rejected from both. Clearly, there is something wrong with the way I am presenting myself. I practiced substantially more for my second interview, doing 3 mock interviews and rehearsing. I believe I was warm and friendly (scanning what went wrong, maybe too garrulous?–especially as a female interviewing in very “red” areas? Maybe each a poor culture fit for me and the school?–there was no political commentary or political turn of question to avoid) with all staff and fellow interviewees at each event.

Knowing I will have to re-apply, I am starting my preparation for this journey. I have been listening to all of the Medical School HQ podcasts and understand that closing deficiencies ASAP is ideal, but I should not reapply too early. And frankly, call it poor self-study–but I am somewhat at a loss on where I have gone wrong.

The first order of business I can do to improve my overall competitive quality will be retesting MCAT (taken in 09/2017–it will be expiring soon anyway). My total score was like 70%ile-but I underperformed in chemistry/physics (56%ile, 128-130 on practice exams) and biology was also average (51%ile–at the time of testing, I was deficient in Molecular Biology and have since studied on my own, with friends, taken Coursera, etc attempting to close these gaps.) I have heard from an admissions committee a low biology score is a marker for those who will not perform well on boards. Obviously, I was able to be offered interviews with my rather mediocre score, but to improve overall level of competition for my application, MCAT is certainly an area I believe I am capable of making a possible 10 point improvement.

But my more pressing question is how to handle further gaps. I left my career in analytical chemistry in order to fulfill gaining clinical experience (eliminating 70% of my salary, moving home with my mother). While I love working as an ED scribe (and also now as scribe leadership in training, quality, and continuing education), I wonder if continuing in the same path after rejection would show weakness in regards to not adapting to change after rejection–begging the question “why did you continue in the same path following rejection”. Should this be a concern? One school told me I didn’t have enough shadowing–following my interview–although I now have well over 800 hours in the ED (my specific ED has a wide range of cultures which I have noted: people from the Amish community to patients from urban poverty. And also in the ED, I feel you did get exposure to the full range of people and complaints. However, after this feedback, I shadowed family at a local clinic, rheumatology, and palliative care (which is where I think I would like to land).

My other activities include: volunteering at a rape crisis center (about 12-24 hours a week on crisis hotline–also as a medical advocate), volunteering tutoring local high school students as needed (approx 3 hours a week), volunteering (just a back-up. fill in.) for delivery service for the library for community members who are home-bound, teaching 2-3 yoga classes per week as a certified instructor, and working with a local doctor on his small business (not a clinical practice, more lifestyle-related). At this point, I feel I am fully loaded as there are only so many hours in a week, and I hope all my current activities maximize my application.

On GPA, I built a spreadsheet and figured the numbers, if I did a full-time class for 2 years with all A’s, I could increase my overall GPA by only 0.7. This seems like a lot of financial commitment, time, and effort for little gain–especially after listening to so many of the HQ podcasts. However, when I look at the core competencies, I did have somewhat of a downward trend in GPA in advanced chemistry curriculum, but honestly A-‘s. (at best I had 4.0 semesters, but my worst semester was like 3.6). I do have a few community college courses including 1 B. I finished my BS in chemistry from a small liberal arts college in 2010 in 3 years. Is there a problem with how long it has been since school? I have no further research experience aside from a 6-month internship in renewable fuel when I was in chemistry a decade ago.

In an honest assessment, I think I am a good candidate and an affable and trustworthy person. However, I continue to receive rejections post interview. All clinical staff with whom I am acquainted have been thoroughly supportive of me–and seem to believe I have “what it takes”–unless they are talking through their teeth. I don’t know how to close the gap in gaining respect and trust as I do in my day to day work in a 6 hour interview day–I wonder where I am failing.

What more should I do in the meantime? I would love any ideas you guys have!

I don’t know what to modify or change up to find acceptance. Please advise.”

[06:30] Applying Early Decision

Just on a superficial level, this student is very worried about the microdetails. If you look at the AACOMAS transcript, they break down every type of science course. They show you where your weaknesses are if you’re looking for them. You got some interviews. And I think the biggest issue here is that you applied early decision. I almost never recommend applying early decision.

The problem is when you apply early decision and you get rejected, you’d have to scramble at the last minute. So you hurry up to get the rest of your application in. When you apply an early decision, you are applying and saying that you are only applying to one school. It’s like an all-or-none bet. And if it’s none, then you can start turning in other applications but it’s already very late in the cycle.

'When you apply an early decision, you are applying and saying that you are only applying to one school.'Click To Tweet

[09:37] Scribing vs. Shadowing

Right now, there are up to 2,500 hours and being a scribe is not shadowing. It’s a clinical experience. Did you mislabel some experiences and confused some people? So you actually missed shadowing since scribing is not shadowing.

Your experiences actually look amazing as you’re doing a lot of volunteering stuff. Scribing is great but a lot of medical schools don’t actually consider it as sole clinical experience since you’re really not doing a ton with the patient. Instead, maybe go out and get some hospice experience. Another great clinical experience is the rape crisis center. But this is a hotline so you’re not technically interacting with the patient in person since you’re on the phone with them.

[11:14] Taking Classes

The GPA doesn’t seem to be an issue but it is old. Graduating in 2010 is 9 years ago as of this recording. I recommend you taking some classes to show to medical schools that you can still take classes and still do well in them.

'A lot of schools want to make sure that you are still capable of and you still enjoy being a student.'Click To Tweet

So you can probably retake the MCAT. You don’t have to change all of your extracurriculars since you’re doing a ton of stuff now. You can probably add some hospice volunteering. It’s a great experience since you get to be close to the patient and interact with them. Look at taking more classes. You can go to a community college and take some upper division science courses.

[12:22] Interview

Was there something during the interview that caused the rejection? Or maybe post-interview, they looked at the totality of your application along with the other students and they decided you still came up a bit too short. So it’s impossible to know if your interviews caused the rejections or whether it was your application as a whole that caused it. If you applied early to the second school and you interviewed earlier, would they have accepted you? Well, that would be impossible to know. The best you can do here is to call the schools and ask for feedback on your interview to see if it was an interview issue.

'Call the schools and ask for feedback on your interview to see if it was an interview issue.'Click To Tweet

Finally, remember that worrying about the microdetails is not something that’s going to keep you from getting into medical school.


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